If you are one of the more than 120 million people making a New Year’s resolution for this year, you would be wise to take a moment to consider your personal motivators and demotivators. Increasing your awareness of what makes you feel ownership will help you meet your goals.
Most of us form resolutions that revolve around food and exercise. Perhaps you have resolved to spend more time working out, but are struggling to gain the incentive to do that. Some individuals prefer having exercise partners because they enjoy the sense of competition; for example, they are motivated to find out who can run longer and faster or who can lift the most weight. If you recognize these characteristics in yourself, consider finding someone to compete with at the gym.
Other people (like me) find competition a demotivator. I am far more interested in having a fitness partner who will share a personal anecdote or story while we exercise. Time passes quickly for me if I am hearing about a home redecorating project or the recent resolution of a particular family problem. With such an appealing motivator, I have a greater chance of success.
I am also demotivated when I have to follow the dictations of someone else’s program. I learned this struggle the hard way while trying to lose weight. Rebellious by nature, I found that as a soon as a diet guru outlined my food plans, I would be searching for loopholes that would allow me to bend the rules.
Not taking ownership of these various plans prevented me from permanently changing my behaviour. But, if I made a plan truly my own, I finally felt the necessary motivation to pursue my food and exercise program with focus and determination. I also found it helpful to create plans that contained an element of adventure. For example, I discovered my love of music inspires my workout routine; I exercise with far more enthusiasm when I have the accompaniment of a good beat.
Additionally, making my food and exercise program feel like a game, rather than a tedious chore of checking off boxes, helps me stick to my plan. Humans, by nature, are more committed to games than they are to work! One of the things that I do is make a game out of getting my exercise when I am constrained. For example, I walk large loops in airport aisles instead of sitting in the lounge.
Another personal motivator for me is being outdoors. Spending time each day enjoying nature makes it that much easier for me to stick to my health and well-being resolutions.
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, we’ll be more successful if our external actions follow our internal desires. That is motivating as it feels more like fun than work. Here are some ideas that inspire me to make a plan my own:
1) Set goals ahead of time. I always plan my route before heading out for a walk. Otherwise, I might be tempted to turn around earlier than I should.
2) Schedule exercise. If I make exercise a priority by scheduling it on the calendar at the start of each week, I will subconsciously send myself a message that fitness is important, which, in turn, will help me adhere to my plan. A pastor once told me that he scheduled personal time with his family by using code words to block off time on his calendar. Members of his congregation who saw the calendar readily respected his time commitments, not realizing that the words were actually referring to his personal time. Should you find yourself pressed for personal time, consider following his example – claim some time for yourself.
3) Refrain from negotiating with yourself in the moment because, simply put, you will lose. As Nike says, “Just do it.”
4) Follow through with your plan or change it. If you struggle to follow through with your plan for up to two days, set a new goal (make it a small one that you can achieve).
5) Start a behaviour diary. Reflecting on your behaviour is critical to gaining self-awareness. Actually looking at what you are doing (or not doing) will give you opportunity to reflect, and enable you to change your discouraging habits or mental hang-ups.
Ownership is about living and creating opportunities, rather than caving in to restrictions. The factors that get us going or slow us down differ from person to person; the key is simply to identify what works for you. By taking ownership of all that supports and encourages you, you will be motivated to plan it, schedule it, and do it – whatever “it” may be. Your New Year’s resolution will become a reality.